A teacher has been struck off after developing an “inappropriate relationship” with one of his pupils.
Stephen Goodfellow, 49, who was head of religious studies at Chigwell School in Essex, sent the student a message stating “I can’t just stop loving you” shortly after she left the school.
A professional conduct panel also ruled that he consumed more alcohol than was appropriate on a school trip, and “failed to treat pupils with dignity and respect” by comparing one student to the ogre wife of the film character Shrek.
The National College for Teaching and Leadership panel found that Mr Goodfellow “developed and/or engaged in an inappropriate relationship” with a student referred to as “Pupil A”.
Pupil A left the school in the summer of 2015, and Mr Goodfellow admitted to the panel that he exchanged Facebook messages with her afterwards, including one sent on 19 December 2015 which said “I can’t just stop loving you”.
Mr Goodfellow also admitted to sending emails from his personal email account to Pupil A’s personal account while she was at school, including one message which referred to her as “sweetheart”. For Pupil A’s 18th birthday, he sent her an online birthday card. She also attended Mr Goodfellow’s classroom on more than one occasion, where they would engage in one-to-one conversations.
The panel found that Mr Goodfellow “allowed the inappropriate relationship to develop”, and that he sent the 19 December message “within a short period of months following her leaving the school”. The panel said this represented “the final sequence in the progression and development of a relationship he had formed with Pupil A when she had been a pupil at the school”.
While the panel said there had been no suggestion or allegation that Mr Goodfellow’s conduct was sexually motivated, he accepted that shortly after Pupil A left the school he developed a “romantic attachment to her”.
The panel’s decision noted that Pupil A had “suffered from ill health and showed a tendency to isolate herself”. “She had clearly placed substantial trust in Mr Goodfellow, who betrayed, and took advantage of, that trust,” it stated.
Two other allegations against Mr Goodfellow were also upheld. The first was that he failed to safeguard pupils by consuming more alcohol than was appropriate on a school trip to Mersea Island, Essex, in 2012.
Mr Goodfellow admitted to drinking four glasses of wine and a small glass of port on the first night, and four glasses of wine and a beer on the second night.
The panel said this was “especially” concerning, given the fact that he was formally warned about drinking too frequently on a school trip in 2010.
The panel also found that Mr Goodfellow “failed to treat pupils with dignity and respect” on two occasions.
The decision notice stated: “In 2011, Mr Goodfellow referred to Pupil B as 'Fiona' due to an alleged similarity between Pupil B and Shrek's wife in the film Shrek. Shrek and Fiona are ogres. This caused Pupil B upset.”
In a second incident in 2013, Mr Goodfellow was approached by a student – Pupil C – about taking RS at A level. Mr Goodfellow responded by laughing and stating, “Are you seriously thinking of taking RS?”
The panel concluded that his behaviour had led to both pupils feeling “embarrassed and humiliated”.
A fourth allegation, that Mr Goodfellow had dishonestly failed during a disciplinary meeting to fully notify the school of his conduct with Pupil A, was not upheld.
Concluding, the panel said: "Over a number of years, Mr Goodfellow has shown a cavalier attitude towards compliance with school policies and warnings from senior members of staff. Even when giving his evidence to the panel, and whilst he had expressed remorse, he did not inspire the panel with confidence that he truly understood the seriousness of the overall nature of his conduct."
The panel's recommendation that Mr Goodfellow should be prohibited from teaching indefinitely was accepted by the education secretary’s representative.
However, Mr Goodfellow will be able to request a review to set aside the prohibition after two years.
He also has the right to appeal to the High Court within 28 days of the prohibition order being served.